Ventured out to Brooklyn tonight for the New York Islanders NHL match against the Nashville Predators in only their second game at their new home in the Barclays Centre.
Disembarking from the 3 train at Atlantic Ave subway and walking up the steps to the Barclays Centre is a great sight as you see the blue neon lights above the arena. Islanders fans were dressed up on a cold night in Brooklyn and as I walked in through heavy security (metal detectors, hand held detectors and staggered entry points) it was good to see some positive things for fans such as the free programs that were being given out and a fan photo opportunity with this ‘best seats’ stand.
Walking into the Barclay’s Centre after security the first thing you notice is the smell of all the various food stands and varied and delicious they all are as the arena has plenty of food options to cater for everyone like typical stadium grub such as hot dogs, pretzels, burgers and pizza all done in a gourmet way and often with a local spin like the Williamsburg Pizza stand which uses local Brooklyn ingredients. Having been here before for a Nets game it was great to see that they still have the DIY nachos stand complete with the ’Nacho Guard’ who stands by and watches people so that they don’t go too crazy on the free condiments like guacamole and jalapenos.
With my free program in hand I made my way around the centre taking in what was on offer for fans. Sales reps were spruiking the place to entice Islanders fans and people present to become members but before I sat down I thought there wouldn’t be a need for that and surely this game would be sold out. Not so as it turns out as by the puck drop there were thousands of seats still empty and which remained empty for the duration of the game. I was really left scratching my head at this. First season in a brand new home, established team, proud fans, affordable tickets, second game in a new world class state of the art arena….what’s wrong here?
From what I witnessed and from the fans I spoke to, they and I agreed that the fan experience was great from both the Islanders and the Barclays Centre. I’ll keep a close eye on what happens here over the course of the season.
Hear the sounds of the organ at the ice hockey here:
Around the concourse there are photo booth opportunities, merch stands and plenty of mobile bars to get a beer from, although the price of beer at sporting games here continues to rise. I paid US$12 for a beer at a game in LA in 2010 and most stadiums are around the $10-12 for 450-500ml still so stop complaining about the price of beer back home in Australia!
Moving on and sitting down in my seat I had a fan come over and give me a copy of song cheat sheet and I joined in with the Islanders fans who were pretty lubricated from the local craft beers that the Barclay’s Centre sells. It was a nice touch to have the Islanders and fans work on this together and really showed a sense of community from fans or especially the 100 odd who were around me and all in jovial spirits as can be heard here before the game got underway.
It was great to see a host of fan engagement activations and ideas flash up on the video board over the course of the night but I particularly liked the fact that the team are doing a special promotional night for first responders and paramedics at the next game by giving a tee shirt away. I remember working at The Gabba where we would have SES and other volunteers in for free for some matches so it’s a good idea to reward the real hero’s out there in the community.
The Barclays Centre app was useful and allowed me to order a hot dog for pick up from a section outside my row although I wonder if they will do in-seat ordering soon as well. The app also has a detailed map and a section for video replays however this was not working or videos were not available for this game which was disappointing. It was also good to see that with a touch of a button in the app, anti-social behaviour from fans can be reported to arena management.
The free WiFi is super fast and easy to log on to with just your name and email needed although it appeared to not work first time having put in my Victorian postcode however you could just make up a 5 digit one or use your hotel’s in order to get connected quickly.
Here are some of the fan engagement activations that took place at the NY Islanders match.
Opening Animation: This was a special 90 second long animation of NYC which really pumped the fans up pre game. Listen to it here:
Veteran of the Game: Honoring a US veteran
Make Some Noise: Measuring fans voices
Hat-Trick Challenge: Fan answers three questions and wins a prize if they get them all right.
Member Giveaway: Seat upgrades, tickets to matches etc.
Lucky Row: Special seat and row win a prize
Viber: Islanders and Barclays Centre use Viber to chat to fans within the app
Tee-Shirt Giveaways: Throwing shirts in to the crowd for fans. Tee-rocket broken?
Fan Cam: Fans dancing etc on the big screen
Overall the Barclays Centre and NY Islanders fan experience was really entertaining and fun. There is loads of stuff happening over the course of the game and from the fans and staff I had a chance to chat to all agreed that looking after members and fans and keeping ice hockey at the core was fundamental to making a successful fan experience.